Pollster: Romney's weak Hispanic numbers could cost him election


  Mitt Romney hasn't improved his standing with Hispanic voters — and that could cost him as many as four key states if Hispanic turnout is high, according to a leading Latino pollster.

President Obama leads Romney by 72 to 22 percent with Hispanic registered voters, according to the latest tracking poll by Latino Decisions. That marks an improvement for Obama and a dip for Romney since the tracking poll began 11 weeks ago. In August, Obama's lead was 65 to 26 percent.

"With 11 weeks of tracking, we are headed towards a record level of Latino votes for a Democratic presidential candidate," said University of Washington Professor Matt Barreto, who runs the poll, in a statement. "If Latinos turnout at the high rates we are expecting, they could deliver Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Virginia to Obama."

All four states have large, and growing, Hispanic populations. Early voting in Nevada has heavily favored Democrats, and strategists on both sides of the aisle expect Obama to win there, while Florida, Colorado and Virginia have all remained pure toss-up contests in recent polling. Florida and Virginia are considered must-wins for Romney.

If these numbers prove correct, that would be Democrats' largest edge in history with Hispanics, at a time when the fast-growing population is quickly gaining electoral importance. Then-President George W. Bush topped 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won 31 percent in 2008, according to exit polls. A Romney campaign surrogate told The Hill in August that the campaign hoped to reach 38 percent of the Hispanic vote this election.

Latino likely voters break for Obama by 73 to 24 percent in the poll, and 55 percent of them say they're more enthusiastic about voting this election than in 2008, while just 22 percent say they were more enthusiastic four years ago. Many Republican pollsters have predicted Hispanic turnout to remain flat or even decrease from four years ago, explaining some of the disparity between GOP polls and nonpartisan and Democratic polls in the last few weeks of the campaign.

The poll of 300 Hispanic registered voters was conducted in English and Spanish from Oct. 26 through Nov. 1 and has a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points.